Forestry Minister to Hand Control of Surabaya ‘Nightmare Zoo’ to City’s Mayor

A young girl looks at a Sumatran Tiger at Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, East Java, on Jan. 11,  2014. (EPA Photo/Fully Handoko)

A young girl looks at a Sumatran Tiger at Surabaya Zoo in Surabaya, East Java, on Jan. 11, 2014. (EPA Photo/Fully Handoko)

After years of dispute over the management of Surabaya Zoo, the central government on Tuesday said it would officially hand full authority of the controversial zoo to Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini, ensuring substantial changes in its operations and its treatment of animals.

“This definitive license will be given to the mayor this week,” Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan said following a meeting with Rismaharini and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Surabaya Zoo is Indonesia’s oldest zoo and was held the widest collection of animals in Southeast Asia, with 351 species in its care. Zulkifli conceded that management problems had long been an issue, with dispute over control of the zoo dating back to the 1980s.

In July last year, the city administration unilaterally took over the running of the zoo from a temporary management team that was appointed in February 2010 by the Forestry Ministry following the disappearance and suspicious deaths of several animals.

Rismaharini, in justifying the takeover at the time, claimed that the caretaker team had done little to stanch the spate of animal deaths and that its plan to invite private investors to help in managing the zoo was a ruse to demolish it and build a hotel on the city-owned land.

Zulkifli said that the under the city’s care, the zoo’s management would be replaced with new individuals with no conflicting interests.

“The management will oversee the maintenance of animal pens and their food, among other things. There will also be an audit in a partnership between the mayor and Airlangga University on the issue of animal overpopulation,” he said.

He added that if audit results concluded that the zoo had more animals than it could adequately care for, the government would transfer some of the animals to other zoos and conservation facilities — a policy that the caretaker team had put into place since 2010, but which Rismaharini claimed was a guise for selling the animals on the black market.

“The president has called for a solution to avoid more animal deaths,” Zulkifli said.

Tuesday’s meeting was also attended by East Java Governor Soekarwo and Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya.

During the meeting, Yudhoyono said he had received plenty of reports from the public about the poor conditions in which animals at the zoo were kept.

“They reminded me that the deaths in Surabaya Zoo had become the focus of the international community and feared that such an issue would give outsiders the impression that we don’t care about our zoos,” he said.

“Let’s find the best solution, and when it has been formulated, explain it to the public. Of course we will not forget the events that have occurred. There is always a way out or a solution.”

Soekarwo expressed appreciation for the government’s decision to officially hand control of the zoo to the city, which has been the de facto operator since July, but emphasized that improvements would take time.

“This is no magic trick, it’s a long process. That is why we need to wait,” he said, adding that he hoped the zoo’s new management would be able to provide a better environment for the animals.

Tuesday’s decision was also welcomed by Wayan Titib Sulaksana, a former official at the zoo.

“We were always in support of having the city administration take over the zoo,” said Titib, who is also a lecturer at Airlangga University’s law school.

He suggested that the mayor order the zoo’s employees — some of whom were retained from the different regimes that ran the zoo — to work together for the betterment of the zoo and set aside any rivalries.

Titib said Surabaya Zoo should also reorganize its hiring system to bring in fresh officials without prejudiced views about the running of the zoo.

  • hens

    vey bad indonesia only plant new palmtre for palmoil,not god

  • prodopo

    Cee4life have been holding the mayor (Risma) responsible for all that’s wrong at Surabaya zoo since last summer (2013). At this time the tiger Melanie was transferred to the care of Tony Sumampau and the East Java Taman Safari. Since then, I have only seen good things about Tony and bad about Risma, very bad in fact. See for yourself. The thing is, It’s common knowledge that the mayor has has no control over the running of the zoo, and even now is waiting for final confirmation in writing from the forestry dept that the city admin can take over there. This has been reported in the JG. In spite of this, Cee4life attack the mayor non-stop over the state of the zoo. For me it starts to look shady when one considers that the leader of the zoo management who lost control to the mayor was Tony. So, the management team in control of the zoo when the tiger Melanie got sick was Tony, who then came along and saved her. Please check this out. I don’t know why Cee4life insist on attacking the mayor and would welcome an explanation. There also needs to be an explanation of why they have seemingly ignored/ heavily played down the fact that Tony S was the manager of the zoo for 3 years and during that time conditions at the zoo did not improve for the animals and many died. KBS urgently needs help, but through reputable channels only please.

  • prodopo

    It’s great that people care about the animals at KBS, but before you all demand that the place be closed down please consider that their are those who would welcome closure of KBS as it would free up some highly lucrative property development opportunities. Please also consider that the vast majority of people living in Surabaya have nothing, and no prospects. With help, the zoo could and should become an educational resource for ordinary Surabayans. Close it down and the big winners will be the developers. Is that what you want?